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CFLPA looking to hold Ambrosie to his word when contract talks open

Brian Ramsay and the CFL Players' Association plan on holding commissioner Randy Ambrosie to his word when collective bargaining talks begin. The two sides are scheduled to begin negotiations March 11-12. The present deal expires May 15.

Brian Ramsay and the CFL Players' Association plan on holding commissioner Randy Ambrosie to his word when collective bargaining talks begin.

The two sides are scheduled to begin negotiations March 11-12. The present deal expires May 15.

The CFLPA concluded its annual general meeting Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont. Ramsay said the players' message was a very clear one.

"It's unanimous across the league from players that gaining respect and fair treatment from the CFL is a very, very high priority," Ramsay, the CFLPA executive director, said during a conference call. "It touches on so many levels.

"It touches on our push for rehabilitation and for protection for the players. It touches on the shared vision and partnership, to have the players a part of the league. Coming out of this week's meetings that was heard loud and clear by our group."

Ambrosie has stated often he wants to create a partnership with the players and have them benefit from growing the game. He firmly believes his time as a former player — Ambrosie was an offensive lineman with Calgary, Toronto and Edmonton from 1985-93 — and CFLPA secretary will give him a unique perspective in contract talks.

And on Friday in Winnipeg, Ambrosie said he plans on selling the players on his long-term vision for the league, namely CFL 2.0. Since November, Ambrosie has formed working relations with nine different football federations globally _ Mexico, Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Italy.

"We've had some discussions (about CFL 2.0) and we've been very vocal that we would've much rather had more throughout and been part of the process," Ramsay said. "When I look at some of the very public trips across the globe . . . it would've been a great thought to have players part of that.

"To hear some of the quotes from Randy (on Friday) . . . those are great thoughts and that aligns with the partnership vision that we have. Our hope and expectation is when we do get a chance to sit down that those words become actions and the players can truly become partners in the growth of the game."

And that means players becoming much more involved.

"Something publicly that we've talked about before is the players' participation on the health and safety and rules committee and how there needs to be a stronger players' voice," Ramsay said. "We've said time and time again we don't believe this should be left up to just nine owners and the league to make the decision when we have 550-plus players that are extremely vested into the league.

"We'd like to be part of that. Again, we're looking forward to sitting down with the league and actioning the comments of the commissioner and working together."

Player safety and money will be two other important negotiation points for the union. Last year, the league's minimum salary was $54,000 while the salary cap was $5.2 million.

The CFL is reportedly open to raising the minimum stipend to around $70,000, but Ramsay wouldn't comment about what the CFLPA's financial approach will be.

With the CFL regular season scheduled to open June 13, the league and its players don't have the luxury of time. Ramsay wouldn't say if the players would go to training camp without a new deal.

"I think that's a bit premature," he said. "We're going to sit down with the league in nine or 10 days here with the best of intentions to find a workable solution that addresses the needs and concerns of our membership."

Contract talks in 2014 were often testy. Negotiations broke down several times and there was even a threat of a players' strike before both sides hammered out a five-year agreement.

CFL players have gone on strike once before in 1974, but the situation was settled prior to the start of the regular season.

Ambrosie has often stated he's optimistic a new deal can be reached this time around.

"I'd hope there's optimism from everybody," Ramsay said. "I think everyone should have the best of intentions now.

"That's not to say that there's not a lot of work to do. I think everyone is aware that there's a lot of work in front of everybody."

Ramsay said the CFLPA has reviewed previous contract talks with the CFL _including 2014 _ as part of its preparation for these negotiations.

"We've looked at previous CBAs and previous negotiations and we've learned from that, good and bad," he said. "But we're using that detail to prepare for this upcoming year and then the years in the future."

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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